This Never Gets Old


A couple of days ago, I was channel surfing looking for something interesting to watch on television to kill some time.  We had company on the way so it couldn’t be too time consuming.  I also had my laptop open to the left of me and had half an eye on new Twitter messages flying by. 

I noticed a few in a row from Brian Aspinall in my Ontario Educators stream.  (@mraspinall)

It looked like he was as bored as I was or was doing some research. 

He was retweeting messages about Scrawlar.  It’s one of his babies in the digital world – a combination of word processor / whiteboard built with collaboration and no data collection in mind.  A lot of people like the approach that he’s taken.  I reviewed the product here.

It was actually interesting to see where he was digging up the resources.  I stopped looking for something on the tube and watched him.  I thought I would help his cause and retweeted messages as he sent them.  It’s probably a futile effort because earlier that week we came to the agreement that we probably have the same community on the social network.  Oh well.

There was one that was of particular interest to me.

It was a short tutorial, written in blendspace.  This was a service that I’d never heard of before.  But, I retweeted the message knowing that would somehow, some day, reach my radar for a little more research.

 

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A couple of seconds later, my half-eye noticed that my Twitter message had been retweeted.  Brian?

This wasn’t a terribly unusual occurrence – this is how Twitter works, right?

Then, again and again and again.

I looked yet again and there was a retweeter that I’d never seen before.  So, I checked her bio.

She was from Italy.

I did a little mental math time conversion and realized that it was very early in the morning, her time.

Two things crossed my mind.

  • I wonder what wine region she lives in?
  • Is she camped out at Monza at Curva Parabolica waiting for the Grand Prix?

Am I bad because the two things that I think of when I think Italy are wine and Formula 1 racing?

In reality, she’s probably a hard working teacher preparing for a new class, looking for good resources and certainly Scrawlar fits that bill.

I thought Brian might get a kick out of the reach that his project has so sent him a private message to check the source.

We had a little back and forth about the humility of all this.  We’re just a couple of people doing some learning and sharing in the evening. 

The fact that someone half a world away wants to join in just blows you away.  As Brian noted, he’s just a guy sitting on a living room couch cranking out code on his laptop.  Yet, his work is being appreciated so far away.  But, when you think of the reality, it could be a first year teacher two blocks over looking for good resources.

There’s something about this shared learning that is so impressive.  For how many years have school boards tried to engage teachers with official memos sent from central office and failed?

Yet, the connected learner has that – and so much more.

For me, this moment never gets old.

Another #BIT14 Visualization


After Saturday’s post about Tweetbeam, I received a note from a former student of mine, @JeffClark who invited me to try his Twitter visualization program.

So I did!

Jeff’s done a bunch of visualizations at his Neoformix site.  He calls his Twitter search visualization Spot.

I fed it the hashtag #bit14 and sat back to watch.  I do enjoy a good visualization and I wasn’t disappointed here.

In fact, he visualizes the data a number of different ways.  Your visualization is selected by the icons on the top of the screen.

 

Banner View

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Timeline View

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User View

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Word View

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Source View

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Group View

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I’ve captured the above images real sized and let WordPress resize them for your browser.  Use your local browser to view the original image if you’re interested in seeing it.

Complete descriptions about the views are contained on the page Introducing Spot on the Neoformix site.

I’m glad that Jeff dropped by to remind me of his work.  Visit the Neoformix site if you’re interested in more details about this project or any of the others that have been created.

In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy another way to visualize the buzz leading to the #BIT14 conference.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


This is the third post in a row written using Windows Live Writer.  That means that I’ve been using Windows for three days in a row.  That’s a modern day record!  I notice that it’s Live Writer 2011.  I wonder if there’s been an upgrade?  I recall reading recently that it might go open source.  That would be awesome.

Back on topic … here’s some great posting from Ontario Edubloggers from this past week.

A Letter to a New Teacher

On the Voice of Canadian Education blog, Stephen Hurley issued this challenge.

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If you could write a letter to a first year teacher, what advice would you pass along.

He gives some perspective – what an administrator might say, what a student might say, what a teacher might say, what an outsider might say, …

I think it’s a great idea and I’m going to accept the challenge and write a blog post over the weekend sharing my thoughts.

Thanks for the inspiration, Stephen.


My Thoughts on the Peel District School Board’s Social Media Guidelines for Staff and Teachers

Fred Galang shares some of his thoughts about the Peel DSB’s social media guidelines.

Recently, the Peel District School Board released their social media guideline for staff and teachers. As much as I applaud their initiative (they’ll be the first to outline such guidelines for social media use in detail), there were a few items that sparked a healthy convo with my Tweeps over the last two days. Without the risk of repeating myself, I’ll simply address the most contentious for me.

In the beginning, teacher use of social media was really experimental.  I can recall being involved with the OTF Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century series.  In some quarters, there was a wish that there would be rules or guidelines.  I remember having the discussion at the time and we agreed that you just couldn’t put it all into a one pager.  The best advice we got still applies to day “Don’t do stupid things.”

I absolutely agree with Fred’s concerns.  I never was a fan or rules.  They always define a line between someone’s concept of what’s right and what’s wrong.  If you’ve ever been in a classroom, you know that’s an immediate red flag for students to determine where that line actually is. 

My sense is that the document still has the mentality that social media is a “think” that can be clearly defined and all the negatives drawn from it.  The document does identify concerns, particularly about student privacy.  Instead of a social media document that defines that, wouldn’t it make more sense to expand any existing privacy resource to include cautions? 

I do wonder about the concept of having a person and a professional account.  We’ve all seen people try to manage that and post from the wrong account.  What would happen if students actually found out that you’re human and are a fan of the Detroit Tigers?  Certainly the world wouldn’t end.

I still like the original advice “Don’t do stupid things.”

Royan Lee also wrote about the same thing and garnered some comments from Ontario Educators well worth the reading.


How BYOD/T is Getting Easier, How it’s Getting Harder

Not to belittle Royan’s other post, I really like what he did when he tackled the topic of BYOD/T again.

It’s to his credit that he’s identified in one of the comments as a “pioneer”.  He’s certainly been very vocal and open about his experiences over the time that devices were welcomed in his class.  He addressed these in detail in an interview that I had with him.

Royan’s just generally a great guy.  I recall sitting next to him watching his kids swimming and we were just chatting.  I still remember thinking “this guy is going to change the world, one class at a time”.  He’s very vocal but not the sort of evangelist that exudes a “follow me or begone” approach.

In a world where some are debating the merits of BYOD, Royan speaks with the mature voice of experience. 

If you’re collecting a list of definitive resources about BYOT, you need to include this post. 

Dean Shareski did.


Yearning For The Printed Photograph

Facebook friends know that I had a major life event this past week.  I was there with my phone taking pictures and sharing them on Facebook with friends.  It’s fast and efficient and you get to see them all just as quickly as I can post them.  Not all of them were absolute perfection but they were from my eyes.

My wife, on the other hand, goes a more traditional route.  Even though she has a digital camera, it’s off to Shopper’s to get printed copies of them.  She likes the more permanent record of them and the fact that she can put them in an album and leave them on a shelf.

Aviva Dunsiger reflected on the value of the printed photograph.  I couldn’t help but think that this approach (and grudgingly my wife’s) will stand the test of time.

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I think it’s testament to family history and the eye of the photographer that someone later on can use the word “incredible” to describe their efforts.

It makes you wonder about the legacy of images that those of us share online.  I know that I do keep a copy on backup here but there still a trip into town away from being put in an album.  There’s merit in that – one of my own favourite throwback pictures is of two buzzcut kids with their grandmother. 

There probably is a preferable half-way meeting of the technologies to satisfy both worlds. 

Check out Aviva’s entire post as she takes a look at both sides of the discussion.  There’s some pretty wise insights and, as per Aviva’s normal, a bunch of questions to ask yourself.


Thanks everyone for continuing to write and inspire.  Please take the time to enjoy the entire posts and all of the postings from Ontario Edubloggers.  There’s always some great writing happening.

And, while writing this, I downloaded the latest Live Writer to see if I have the latest.  I might have to hang around Windows for another day or so…

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s too cold to go outside these past couple of days so people are taking time to blog!  We’re beneficiaries of their thoughts and opinions!


There is a space…

Sheila Stewart is pondering about his quote:

Going back in my mind to university days and psychology courses, I’m not sure that the statement could be taken literally.  But I think that there’s a great deal to think about – particularly in this digital age.  I smiled and thought of my recent post “You have about five seconds…”  In the digital world, I do find myself making decisions quicker – at one point, they might have been tempered by a long walk, but not necessarily now.  Maybe I should up that to six seconds.


Art Busking for Cancer!

Colleen Rose, a frequent blogger on her own Northern Art Teacher blog had an increased presence on Facebook recently.  She’s painting at the Thunder Bay Health Science’s Centre, collecting donations as she goes along, and her painting will be auctioned off at the end – all in the name of fundraising.  Awesome.


How To Create QR Codes To Use In Your Classroom

A few years ago, at EdCampQuinte, I led a session where we discussed the use of QR Codes.  The concept was very new at the time but there were a number of reasons, we decided, that made it worth the time and effort.  Now, they’re everywhere – enter a contest by scanning a code here, see the complete details of a new car by scanning there…  it takes away the necessity of waiting to get online and typing in a URL.  Just scan it and go.

In Belleville, we all agreed that the most painful thing in the world is to watch a primary or junior student type an address on the keyboard and get it right, the first time, and without mistake.  It’s even worse on iOS for young fingers since you have to go to special characters to just get the “/” key.  (not so on Android…)

So, speed and accuracy, are two great reasons.  And the fact that you can place QR Code anywhere makes for instant access as long as you have a QR Code reader.

Kristen Wideen explains how she creates and uses QR Codes in her classroom.

This post is definitely worth a read and share with colleagues interested in codes.  Now, there are so many utilities to help you create QR Codes.  There’s no excuse for not doing it.  Rather than a website, I have an extension in my browser – QRUTILS.com to do the trick for me.  Before and after EdCampQuinte, I had created a Scoop.it resource where I’ve tucked away things that I’ve found helpful.  I’ve added Kristen’s blog post to the resources.


Principals

I can remember when principals where members of Teachers federations and there was no question that they were true teachers in the profession.  I was so fortunate, having had three principals at my school and then a couple of supervising principals later on, to have worked with some of the best educators that I know.  Either that or they left me alone to avoid talking about computers.

But, I have seen principals take on different personas when they sit in the chair in the big office.  Some take the budget and spend to get the best resources into the school; some become the ultimate manager of the building; some become single-focused with EQAO within the building; some balance priorities; well, you get the point.  That they’re so diverse should be expected – after all they’re human too.

There were some interesting blog posts surrounding principals this week.

When Principals Meddle

Andrew Campbell takes on the diversity of skills and approaches among principals and questions the professional decision making that teachers are allowed to make.

Can’t We All Just “Get Along?”
Does “Getting Along” Mean That We Have To Agree?

Aviva Dunsiger jumped into the conversation with a couple of her own posts, including a comment from her vice-principal.  She seems to think that there might be some sort of middle ground where everyone “gets along”.

All three blog posts are interesting to read and think about.  I would suggest that anyone who will be taking on a position of added responsibility read and think – what kind of administrator do I want to be, keeping in mind the old adage about pleasing all the people some of the time…and really put a focus on what it’s going to take for true student achievement.


And then, there’s principals learning…

Technology – SAMR for Administrators The Edutopia series
Technology SAMR Model for Administrators – Part 2: Community Interaction The Edutopia Series

Paul McGuire is digging in to how the SAMR model could apply to administrators.

Before moving to any particular tool, Work makes a great point – time is a precious commodity for any school staff and we need to really examine if there are other ways to convey information beyond the traditional (yawn) staff meeting.


Becoming a Google Educator Vice-Principal…

Kelly Power is spending her energies becoming “Googley”, but in an administrative kind of way…

KellyThat’s a lot of Google.


I hope that you get a chance to read all of the above.  Some great resources and thinking from Ontario Educators.  You can check out my entire list here and please, please, if you’ve started your own blog, take a couple of minutes and complete the form so that your blog can be added to the list.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It’s summer time but the blogging doesn’t stop!  Here’s some of the things that caught my reading eye this week.


Storify: CaneLearn summit for K-12 Online & Blended Learning

This past week was the CANeLearn Summit in Toronto.  While I couldn’t be there, the next best thing is to keep an eye on those who were fortunate enough to go and share their learning.

Fortunately, Alanna King got to go and she created a Storify of the thoughts and sharing coming from the event.


Using Social Media as a Teaching Tool

I like how Kristen Wideen has shared her philosophy of using Social Media.  More than that, there’s a great message in the title of this post.  Social Media is not a pedagogy; as she notes, it’s a Teaching Tool.

It’s good teaching that makes all the difference in the world.  Social Media easily extends the reach beyond the classroom.  Read on to find out at least one benefit of being connected.

A few weeks ago we were working on writing a persuasive letter.  I wanted to make this an authentic task so as a class, we brainstormed a list of things that we could persuade our principal to buy or let us do.  My students agreed that they wanted to persuade our principal into buying us a bird feeder to put outside our observation window.  My students came up with the idea to post the letters on their blogs and then tweet them directly to our principal on Twitter.  Students tweeted their letters and got responses from not only the principal.  We received a bird feeder and birdseed on behalf of our Director of Education, a bird house that one of our students made and a humming bird feeder from my mom.

The classroom teacher will tell you that the bird feeder is chump change in the big scheme of things.  Read past the bird feeder to see the process followed and how social media facilitated the process.  That’s where the huge value lies.


Learning Something New

Angie Harrison describes nicely the process of inquiry to lead into this post.

Then, she turns the tables.  She wants to take on some personal learning – crocheting – using the same principles as in her classroom.  Where do you turn to learn in the 21st Century?  How do you learn?  Check out how she’s approaching things this summer.


Is Fear Good or Bad? “21st Century Learning” and #edtech Can’t Make Up Its Mind

Royan Lee takes on the concept of fear and addresses a couple of things that we seem to take as given…

He’s promised not to talk this way anymore.  In the post, he explains why…

I hope to follow up this discussion with Royan at the BringITTogether Conference.  By that time, he’ll be a few months into a new gig and will the opportunity to deal with this first hand.


I Dream Of Desks

So, Aviva Dunsiger got a chance to visit her new classroom for the fall and now she’s dreaming of desks.  The things that makes teachers old before their time!

In all my teaching career, I think the only time I fretted about desks was the one class of Grade 9 Mathematics that I taught.  I had 35 students packed into my room set for 24.  In the computer science classroom, sitting in one spot consistently just doesn’t happen after the first couple of days, and only then for attendance and learning names.

What I like about the picture that Aviva shared in the post is that she appears to have pretty close to a blank slate.  Once she gets through dreaming or nightmaring about things, she could make it anything that she wants.  More importantly, she can make it whatever works for her and her students.

I hope there’s a followup post coming so that we know how this story ends.


What a wonderful collection of sharing this week.  Thanks, Alanna, Kristen, Angie, Royan, and Aviva.  You’re really demonstrating how to keep the bar set high!

Check out these blog posts and more at the Ontario Edublogger Livebinder.

You Have About Five Seconds…


…to impress me.

I like to learn things.  Daily.

There’s a world of people connected, particularly on Twitter, to learn with.  It’s just a matter of connecting with them.  Unlike the thought in some corners, I don’t spend my entire day online.

But I like to use the time that I do spend online productively.  I value those who take the time to learn and share; share and learn.  I like the interactions.  I like the fact that Twitter will suggest people that I might want to learn with.  I also like the fact that I get notifications when someone new follows me.  For me, that’s all raw data just waiting to be analyzed.  That’s where the five seconds come in.

Now, I have been on interview teams and I’ve been interviewed for jobs many times myself.  I know the importance of making a first impression.  Why wouldn’t it apply here?

Here’s how I gauge that first impression in this media.

When I find a “person of potential interest”, I’ll nip over to their home page and check them out.

This is what I look for when I’m there…

  • Do they have a profile picture that would lead me to believe that they’re serious about this;
  • Have they posted anything recently?;
  • Is what they’re posting/sharing recently consistent with what I want to learn?;
  • Is what they’re posting/sharing recently totally inconsistent with what I want to learn but now I’m intrigued?;
  • Do they have an up-to-date blog?;
  • Are they an Ontario Educator?;
  • Do they look spammy?;

A quick Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, No passes the test.  They’re worthy of following.

Where do they go?  Once I found the joys of a multi-column Twitter browser, I was convinced.  Not everyone needs to go into the big mixing pot of followers.  I can make my life a whole lot easier by creating lists.

I recognize that this is hardly scientific.  But I don’t have the time for an hour-long formal interview!

Notice that I don’t care if they have hundreds and hundreds of posts.  Everyone has to start somewhere.

How do YOU determine whether or not to follow someone?

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


It was another week of inspirational reading from my friends / colleagues in Ontario who are sharing their learning and thinking via their blogs.  I can’t recall what I was reading but the question was posed “Should teachers blog or has it become too passé.  (Accent is mine – it was from a blog that clearly was English only…)  Anyway, I would submit that anyone who doesn’t see the value of teachers blogging just doesn’t get it.  Learning today is much more than waiting for the edict to arrive via a staff meeting or a memo.  I would expect that any job in education whether it be for a new teacher or any teacher aspiring for a position of added responsibility should include reference to the applicant’s blog where they openly and publicly reflect upon their practice.

Here’s some of the good stuff I read this week.


Project Based Learning: Don’t Start with a Question

I’ve said it before – I wish that I had met Peter Skillen a long time ago.  His thinking always pushes mine.  He’s not aware of any box so he can’t “think outside the box” – he just thinks – and shares.

I remember a conversation that he and I had once where he has expressed frustration with the pedagogues who implemented policy at the board level by attending a single presentation, asked the presenter for his slides, and off they went.  No deep thinking about the impact of implementation without understanding what’s going on.

In this post, Peter takes on a fresh look at the concept of PBL with a different approach to the project and then extends it to a flip.  It’s a very good read.  I’d suggest that you read it at least twice so that you don’t miss or misunderstand his message.

I shared it on Twitter and got some interesting responses, including a response from Craig Kemp…

which led me to a reflection of his own.

PBL in Mathematics – Creating a Board Game

How’s that for keeping the conversation going?


A screenshot away from your own perfect worksheet!

I added a new blog entry to the list of Ontario Edubloggers this week.  Svetlana Lupasco is an ESL teacher – I’m somehow attracted to ESL teachers – maybe it’s the respect of being able to communicate in a variety of languages?  Maybe because it’s got to be one of the toughest jobs in education?  Maybe because they’re the ultimate users of differentiation?

The title of the post made me a little wary until I saw the context – it wasn’t about filling 15 minutes doing mindless repetition, but rather respecting the adult learner and putting the learning in context.

I found myself nodding in agreement with the message of the post.  I find that I do the same sort of thing in blogging or document creation.  Perhaps my goal is different but I think that the technique and rationale makes a great deal of sense.

And, the resources for images is noteworthy too.  “My two favourite free open-source websites are pixabay.com and openclipart.org


Tapping It Up A Notch: Pool Noodles

First of all, the concept of “noodle” has to be an Essex County thing.  Everyone knows they’re called woggles.

I know that this is an older post, judging by the date, but it’s a great application and certainly something for students to think about as they head home or to the local public pool.

It’s a great, practical application that students are sure to relate to.

I had to do a little mathematics like that myself this spring, only mine extended the concept further.  As I took the winter cover off the pool, I was sickened to see that a branch had torn a hole in the cover and the lovely stuff that accumulates on top managed to make the pool look more like a swamp.

Now, my pool is round, so fortunately, the woggle would bend.  Then, I had to shock the pool which required being able to calculate the volume of water in the pool to determine how much shock to add.

Don’t ever, ever question the fact that mathematics is everywhere!


Independent Study Projects – Semester 2 2013/2014

Emily Fitzpatrick shares some of the work that sprung from ISUs in computer science classes.

This computer science teacher found the post so interesting.

At its simplest, computer science can be a discipline where you watch the teacher demonstrate code and then modify it a bit for their own solutions. 

However, you raise the ante when you ask the question “Why” and expect well thought through responses.  This was a pleasure for me to read.


Why Write? Is Anyone Reading It?

I can’t believe that there’s a blogger alive that hasn’t asked that question and probably never totally satisfied with the answers.  I would suggest that, while you may not blog and change the world, you can always blog your thoughts, reflections, and either get confirmation or challenge yourself while writing.  If you’re looking for a world of reflective practice, this is absolutely the place to do it.

I think that Sue Bruyns absolutely nails the essence of blogging for that purpose in her opening sentence.

“Strolling down memory lane” is your absolutely perfect, bullet-proof, technique to let you know exactly how much you’ve grown professionally.  I would challenge anyone to come up with a better way to demonstrate personal growth other than blogging and reflecting regularly.

I hope that this is a reflection at one point in time and that she continues to blog.  As a leader within a school district, it demonstrates the type of leadership that is open, transparent, and so needed in an educational world that can be so quirky at times.


The downside to writing “This Week in Ontario Edublogs” is that I have to force myself to stop or I never would. 

I hope that you’re curious enough to follow the links above and, when you get your fill, check out the big list of Ontario Edubloggers.  There is always some incredibly good reading there.